Dr. Cathleen Mann Reviews Steven Hassan’s Latest (self-published) Book
Dr. Cathleen Mann, a court-recognized expert in the area of cults, has written a review of Steven Hassan’s latest self-published book, Freedom of Mind. She has done an excellent job of succinctly summarizing the major problems with Hassan’s unsupported theories and claims that he has been making for years, while being uncritically accepted by a certain segment of ex-cult members (Anton Hein’s unsubstantiated assertions are a prime example). Self-proclaimed anti-cult “experts” would do well to take note of the last paragraph of Dr. Mann’s review:
It is interesting to note that on page 25 under the condition “thought control,” is listed the “[r]ejection of rational analysis, critical thinking and constructive criticism”. This is an excellent point and one that should be followed by every cult critic, cult interventionist, professional counselor, or expert. This would include accepting criticism without becoming defensive and the ability to see and correct problems. Debate should be based upon rational analysis. A person working in the cult recovery or education field should endeavor to emulate these characteristics. It is incumbent upon him or her to model this behavior, as it is the rejection of such values that quite often forms the basis for criticizing the leaders and dynamics of cults.
Pseudoscience and unsupported claims within the “anti-cult” community that tend to pathologize anyone who has been in a “cult” group as well as the problems with bracket creep in models of so-called “cults”, is an area that has received far too little attention, in my opinion and this is a good start.
Go here to read the review.
Here is some further response from Dr. Mann in response to some recent comments on this review:
In terms of research with cult members, current or past, there are many ethical issues. I will attempt to explain the strengths and weakness of the Snapping study in a subsequent post. There have been other attempts to study the effects of cult activity on individuals, but due to the limitations of IRB boards and selection problems, these results have been mixed.
Therefore, it is important to realize that no one can claim superior methods over another because there is nothing to back this up. It’s fine to say that the methods used by any in the cult recovery field are theories based on some general research in psychology, but the SIA approached generated by Steve Hassan has no research support. Thus, it is not possible to say that his approach achieves greater success rates or even helps ex cult members. There is a rich and vast trove of research from social psychology and other disciplines that informs the treatment of cult members. When I testify in court and go through the qualification process, I am able to cite and apply the latest research, on all sides of the issue.
In March of 1996, in the case of Kendall v. Kendall, the United States District Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts declined to quality Hassan as an expert witness. Hassan’s disclosure in this one and only attempt shows that he was charging $200 per hour for preparation and $1,500 per day for his “expert testimony” on new religions, yet he had never testified in court before and his only qualification was a a degree in counseling from Cambridge College, a school that accepts life experience as a substitute for coursework. In March of 1996, in the case of Kendall v. Kendall, the United States District Court for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts also rejected Hassan as an expert witness. Hassan’s disclosure in this case shows that he was charging $200 per hour for preparation and $1,500 per day for his “expert testimony” on new religions, yet he had never testified in court before. Nor could show that he deserved such an exorbitant fee.
The criticism of Hassan’s methodology, his marketing strategy, his unusually high fees, and the fact that he claims relationships and associations with other experts is very much overdue. I have had a personal relationship with Hassan until 2009. We discussed things freely, yet there were many issues that he failed to resolve. Hassan denies this, but he knows exactly why our relationship was terminated by me as a last resort. I have observed Hassan in interactions with fellow professionals, current and former cult members, friends, and family. I have worked on legal cases where he has previously done an intervention. Hassan relies on the fact that most people believe his marketing approach and do not know him personally.
My review of Hassan’s latest book was not undertaken lightly. I believe that his books and claims contain misleading information, do not reflect current understanding of how to work with current or former cult members, do not show an attempt to update his skills or knowledge, and he does not attempt at any level to truly work collegially with anyone. He also refuses to discuss any challenges to his work or claims, but sends others to advocate for him, usually individuals that have no personal experience with him outside of a business relationship.